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WO Engineering, Technology, and Geospatial Facilities Tool Box

Waste and Wastewater Topics

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  • The Forest Service provides drinking water and wastewater services to our employees, cooperators, and the recreating public in compliance with the requirements of regulating agencies and internal direction.

    This section of the toolbox provides information to help you provide sustainable, cost-effective, safe drinking water and wastewater treatment. More information about all aspects of drinking water and wastewater is available at the Forest Service Engineering intranet Drinking Water and Wastewater site.

    General Questions

    • How do I count population served at a recreation site and what does that have to do with water and wastewater systems?
    • What’s the separation distance we must keep between water and wastewater systems?

    Water System Questions

    • What are the basic requirements for operating a drinking water system?
    • Do we have to have a certified water system operator?
    • Where can I find training for water system operators?
    • What type of contaminates do we have to sample for, and how often do we have to do it?
    • What are the testing and inspection requirements for a well with a hand pump
    • When and where should I sample for nitrates?
    • What do I do if I get bad bacteriological test results?
    • Do I have to put my water sample results in NRM?
    • Who can chlorinate a water system?
    • How can I dispose of the water after I shock chlorinate the system?
    • How often do I need to inspect and clean my water storage tank?
    • How do I know whether my pressure tank is working properly and is set to the proper pressure?
    • Should I take the batteries out of the solar powered water pump in the winter?
    • How often do I need to formally inspect the water system?
    • Do I still have to take samples and do a sanitary survey if we’re not using the water system?
    • What do I have to do if we don’t need a water well anymore?
    • Do we need to get State approval and pay for a plan review before we install or upgrade a water system?

    Wastewater System Questions

    • Is a septic tank and drain field a “wastewater system”? How about a vault toilet or a pit toilet?
    • How often do I need to pump my septic tank?
    • What should I be checking to make sure my lift station is working properly?
    • Does our wastewater system operator need to be licensed?
    • How often do I need to formally inspect the wastewater system?
    • Do I need a permit to install a septic system or a lagoon?

  • The Forest Service provides drinking water and wastewater services to our employees, cooperators, and the recreating public in compliance with the requirements of regulating agencies and internal direction.

    This section of the toolbox provides information to help you provide sustainable, cost-effective, safe drinking water and wastewater treatment. More information about all aspects of drinking water and wastewater is available at the Forest Service Engineering intranet Drinking Water and Wastewater site.

    There are two reasons you need to know the population that is served by each of your water systems and one reason you need to know the population served by each of your wastewater systems.

    • To design your drinking water or wastewater system properly, you need to know or estimate fairly accurately how many people will use it. If the number of people using the system changes significantly, you may need to modify the system.
    • To determine water system classification, you need to know the population served
      • Public Water System (PWS)—A potable water system that serves at least 25 people at least 60 days a year or has at least 15 service connections. Public water systems are further classified into three types of systems.>
        • Community Water System (CWS)—A public water system that supplies water to the same population year-round, such as a ranger station or large work center with housing.
        • Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNC)—A public water system that regularly supplies water to at least 25 of the same people at least six months per year. Some examples are forest office and warehouse complexes that have their own water systems but don’t have housing on site.
        • Transient Non-Community Water System (TNC)—A public water system that provides water in a place such as resorts, restaurants, or campgrounds where people do not remain for long periods of time.
      • Nonpublic Water System (NP)—A potable water system that does not meet the definition of a public system.


      For existing recreation sites, use actual visitor counts if they are available, adjusting as necessary if you anticipate there will be more site use once the new system is in place. If there is no visitor use data or if you are constructing a new recreation site, use 5 persons at one time (PAOT) per campsite and the design capacity for each group site.

      If you will be installing several hand pumps at your recreation site instead of a piped water system, ask your regional water engineer or State drinking water program how to count population. The requirements vary by State.

      Counting the population served by community and non-transient non-community water and wastewater systems is easier, because the people are there regularly, so you can just ask the local unit. Be sure to check population served during each sanitary survey to make sure system classification is correct

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